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Camping World CEO reaffirms commitment despite objection to Brian France’s endorsement

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Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis reaffirmed his company’s commitment to NASCAR despite not agreeing with Brian France’s decision to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a Georgia rally on Monday.

Lemonis, whose company has served as title sponsor of NASCAR’s Truck Series since 2009, tweeted shortly after France’s endorsement: “There is no place for politics/any political endorsements in any business. Your customers and employees should have their own mind. #period’’

This follows a letter Lemonis wrote to NASCAR last year that led the sanctioning body to move the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series banquet from the Trump National Doral after comments Trump made about immigrants.

Lemonis told Sports Business Daily on Tuesday that he has no plans to seek an early exit from his company’s Truck series sponsorship. The company signed a seven-year extension in 2014 that will take it through 2022.

“I am not going to give Brian France the credit for him to think that him crossing the line that I just defined is going to affect our support of a sport that has tons of fans and teams,’’ Lemonis told Sports Business Daily.

“I’m not going to give him the credit that his crossing that line would warrant us picking a side, when at the end of the day, our allegiance is to the sport, which is much bigger than Brian France, and the teams and drivers, which is much bigger than Brian France, and to the fans who love the sport, which clearly is much bigger than Brian France.

“Brian France is not NASCAR. NASCAR is made up of the millions of fans who have their own views of the favorite sports teams, drivers, politicians and religion.”

Lemonis said he disagrees with France’s endorsement of Trump because of France’s executive position.

“When you control a business, it is very difficult to make sure that the lines don’t get blurry,’’ said Lemonis, who stars in “The Profit” on CNBC and will debut “The Partner” this summer on the network.

“And you work for constituencies. The two constituencies you work for are your customers and employees. It is not your right to leverage your ability to speak; it’s not your right to leverage the power of access that you have.

“If you run a business or own a business, you have a different sort of access than the rest of the community. I’m not in favor of business owners or CEOs leveraging their disproportionate access to communicate a message that is polarizing or maybe takes away someone’s individual thoughts or impugns your personal opinion on somebody.”

Last year, Lemonis’ told NASCAR that he would not attend the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series banquet if it was still held at a Trump property.

Lemonis, who is from Lebanon, was upset with comments by Trump on the campaign trail last summer and wrote NASCAR: “ … due to recent and ongoing blatantly bigoted and racist comments from Donald Trump in regards to immigrants of the United States, I would like to inform you that I will not, nor will any representative of Camping World, participate or attend in the ceremonial event if it is held at any Trump property.

“Our company will not stand to support any person or organization that associates with such beliefs and we feel strongly about distancing ourselves from any negative and discriminatory comments made against any gender, ethnicity, age group or so forth. I would hope that the entire NASCAR organization would agree with my sentiments.’’

Cup starting lineup at New Hampshire has Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch on front row

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Rivals Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch will share the front row for Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Keselowski won his 15th career pole – and first since August 2017 – on Friday. He will have Busch start next to him.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

The rivals have had numerous run-ins throughout the their career.

Kurt Busch, who won last weekend at Kentucky, qualified third and is followed by Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Three drivers will start at the rear: Denny Hamlin (backup), Alex Bowman (backup) and Ryan Newman (backup).

Brad Keselowski wins Cup pole at New Hampshire

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Brad Keselowski scored his first Cup pole since 2017, taking the top spot Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski topped the field with a lap of 136.384 mph. This is Keselowski’s 15th career Cup pole and first since Michigan in August 2017, a span of 68 races.

Keselowski’s run denied Toyota its first pole of the season. Keselowski will be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (136.311 mph).

MORE: Cup qualifying results

Kurt Busch, who won last weekend at Kentucky, will start third after a lap of 136.238 mph. Erik Jones qualified fourth with a lap of 136.189 mph.

Jones’ performance is part of a promising week for him. He stated Friday that he is “close” to signing an extension with Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones’ contract expires after this season.

Ryan Blaney completed the top five with a lap of 136.116 mph. Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth at 136.082 mph, and Matt DiBenedetto qualified a career-best seventh at 135.990 mph. DiBenedetto’s previous best Cup start was ninth in this year’s Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman had a driveshaft failure on his qualifying run and did not complete a lap. He will start at the rear of the field.

“Just a big boom going down the front straightaway and smoke and oil everywhere,” Bowman told NBCSN.

Bowman will go to a backup car.

Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman also will start at the rear of the field because they both went to backup cars after separate incidents late in Friday’s only Cup practice session.

Andy Seuss (qualified 35th) and Austin Theriault (36th) both will be making their Cup debut Sunday.

Daniel Hemric qualified 19th. HIs car failed inspection twice before qualifying and a crew member was ejected.

 

Erik Jones ‘close’ to re-signing after meeting with Joe Gibbs this week

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LOUDON, N.H. – After meeting with team owner Joe Gibbs this week, Erik Jones believes he finally is “close” to signing an extension with the team after a few months of negotiations.

“We’ve had some good meetings, positive meetings, so we’re moving in the right direction,” Jones said during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I’d love to get it done here soon. We’ve had good meetings between my guys and JGR. I’ve had good meetings with Coach talking about it and moving forward. I know I keep saying it, but I feel like we’re pretty close to getting it done.”

The uncertainty for the 2020 season seemingly has been no distraction in 2019 for Jones, who believes he is close to ending a yearlong winless streak. He has notched six top 10s in the past nine races to move into the 16th and final provisional spot for the playoffs with seven races remaining in the regular season.

The Byron, Michigan, native said he told Gibbs “I want to get (the extension) done. We both want to get it done and move forward and stop worrying about it and stop focusing on it, but we’re close. Hopefully here soon.”

An extension for Jones would mean JGR has a full lineup of four drivers signed for 2020 and shift the focus to what is next for Xfinity driver Christopher Bell, who is under contract to JGR next season.

“I think you know as much as I do,” Bell said Friday morning when asked about what series he will race next year. “Actually, you probably know a little bit more than I do. Ultimately, it’s not up to me. I can’t make the decisions, so I’m just along for the ride.”

Bell indicated his desire to move to Cup last season, and a Leavine Family Racing Toyota could be an option if JGR wants to farm him out for 2020 in NASCAR’s premier series.

“I learned early on in my career that a race car driver is only as good as the equipment,” Bell said. “I definitely want to make sure that I’m in equipment that can win.”

Jeffrey Earnhardt releases his remaining races for 2019

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Jeffrey Earnhardt announced his schedule for the rest of the season Friday.

He is scheduled to run six Xfinity races and one Cup race the rest of this season.

His Xfinity races will be Mid-Ohio (Aug. 10), Bristol (Aug. 16), Road America (Aug. 24), Darlington (Aug. 31), ISM Raceway (Nov. 9) and Miami (Nov. 16). He’ll drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity car at Mid-Ohio, Road America, ISM Raceway and Miami. He’ll drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing car at Bristol and Darlington.

He’ll also drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing Cup car at Talladega on Oct. 13.